by Lynn on October 14, 2016

in The Passionate Playgoer


Brave New World

At Theatre Passe Muraille, Toronto, Ont,

Written by Aldus Huxley
Adapted and directed by Matthew Thomas Walker
Set and lighting by Patrick Lavender
Costumes by Lindsay Woods
Sound and original music by Nick Storring
Cast: Nehassaiu deGannes
Jesse Dwyer
Sophia Fabiilli
Carlos González-Vio
Eli Ham
Ryan Hollyman
Adriano Sobretodo Jr.
Zoȅ Sweet

A brave effort to adapt Aldus Huxley’s 1932 futuristic novel to the stage that proves problematic, in a production that doesn’t help.

The Story. Aldus Huxley wrote his futuristic novel in 1931 (published in 1932) and set it in 2540. In it people are regimented and controlled in their working world and their lives. They take a pill when ordered to for that purpose. People do not commit to each other in relationships but flit from person to person in casual hook-ups. When people reach a certain age, they are shot into the atmosphere and disposed of. Babies are born in hatcheries. Those who are different are ostracized and sent away in exile. A couple—a mother and her son John—are discovered in their ostracized place by member of the fold and brought back to ‘civilization.’ John finds comfort and beauty in his book of Shakespeare. He does not fit into this brave new world and chooses to leave. In a case of ‘Big Brother Is Watching You’ John is constantly observed, stalked and finally driven to do something drastic.

The Production. The audience sits in two areas. One is on the stage itself, stage left, in bleachers parallel to the edge of the stage and facing stage right. The other area is a reconfigured section of the ‘regular’ seating in the theatre auditorium covering about half the area the seats usually occupy. All other space is playing area.

The cast is earnest and committed. They work very hard with Matthew Thomas Walker’s adaptation that for theatre purposes lacks drama and tension. Not his fault of course, the book is dense with exposition, and that is hard to translate into a theatrical situation. The characters are medicated to be controlled. They don’t have loyalty to each other, but do seem to have loyalty (fear) for the controlling body that runs their lives. That’s so hard to articulate in a lively fashion for the theatre. But this cast does valiant work.

Director Matthew Thomas Walker uses the whole theatre to suggest various locations in this dystopian world. Much of his blocking has me knitting my eyebrows. Where, for example, are those characters going as they climb to the very top of the theatre, out of sight, into the upper rafters? And how annoying that we can’t actually see them as they speak. Scenes take place in the side balcony section of the theatre, so that those audience members sitting in the bleachers have to contort themselves to turn around completely in their seats to see the scene, and even then it looks like some of those people can’t see what is going on. Why place the scene there? And where is this scene actually located in the context of the story?

Comment. I can appreciate that Matthew Thomas Walker and his Litmus Theatre Company like to challenge themselves and produce provocative theatre. But trying to adapt Brave New World does not come off as a success. Having characters scurrying around the set does not give the story momentum or the drama and tension a play needs. The most ‘compelling’ section concerns John going into the wilderness to fend for himself and being observed and subtly manipulated by those observing that leads him to his final scene. The thing about his final scene is that we are told almost all the details and not shown. This adaptation might better lend itself to film than theatre.

Produced by Litmus Theatre and Kabin with the support of Theatre Passe Muraille.

Opened: Sept. 29, 2016.
Closes: Oct. 16, 2016.
Cast: 8; 5 men, 3 women.
Running Time: 2 hours, 40 minutes.

Three Red Days and Italian Mime Suicide.

At the Theatre Centre, Toronto, Ont.

Concept and direction by Adam Paolozza
Set and projections designed by Anahita Dehbonehi
Lighting by Andrć du Toit
Costumes by Allie Marshall
Sound by Sam Sholdice
Musical direction by Arif Mirabdolbaghi
Cast: Miranda Calderon
Rob Feetham
Viktor Lukawski
Adam Paolozza

Vibrant, compelling story-telling told through mime and music and it’s resoundingly clear, poetic and moving with a hint of impish humour.

Creator/director Adam Paolozza has taken an incident in the lives of two artists to fashion these two mime pieces. Three Red Days concerns that time in the life of Shostakovich when he was denounced in Pravda, the Communist newspaper for his music “that was formalist and decadent in the eyes of Stalin.” He came in for questioning on a Friday by the powers that be who then asked him to return the following Monday for more questioning.

Italian Mime Suicide was created because of a newspaper article Paolozza read about an unnamed Italian mime artist who jumped off a building because no one appreciated his art and his lover left him. Interestingly Paolozza read the article soon after he returned from mime school in France.

In both pieces Paolozza uses gesture, indication and body language. His program note details some of his way of working; the questions on his mind. It’s always fascinating to delve into the thought processes of the artist. In this case it’s the resultant show of Adam Paolozza and his gifted colleagues that matters more to us than his particular way of working. The results of both Three Red Days and Italian Mime Suicide are exquisite.

In Three Red Days three men in suits sit nervously in front of an officer, waiting to be interrogated. A huge likeness of the lower part of Stalin’s face (in profile) and uniformed chest is projected on the back wall, always present; always looking forbidding. One of the men adjusts his tie. Another adjusts his bowtie. One adjusts his glasses. This says everything about anxiety. With uniform and synchronized gestures the three men represent Shostakovich. His music plays over the airwaves; bold, melodic, arresting (no pun intended) and overpowering in a way.

In Italian Mime Suicide, a man enters wearing a classic Italian commedia dell’ arte costume. He sits and pulls out a small container with a sponge from his pocket and begins to apply white make-up to his face as per a clown. Audiences love this stuff—too see how the ‘magic’ is created. The clown (Adam Paolozza) is aided by three other clowns Victor Lukowski, Miranda Calderon and Rob Feetham) who mime gestures and business with a large ball and other props. A ladder is brought out for further business and also to act as the metaphor that will lead the first clown to his final gesture.

At one point when words are actually used, we are told that mime is considered theatrical suicide—Adam Paolozza telling a joke on himself. Rather than committing theatrical suicide by doing a show of two stories, all mimed, Adam Paolozza and his wonderful collaborators use mime to tell exquisite, detailed, nuanced stories that are resounding in their implications and clear in their intentions. Paolozza makes us listen hard, look harder and think about everything in front of and around us. Stunning.

Bad New Days presents:

Opened: Oct. 8, 2016.
Closes: Oct. 23, 2016.
Cast: 4; 3 m3n, 1 woman
Running Time: 90 minutes.

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